Tangled Branches: Cultivated
happenings in and around my zone 6b gardens in northern Virginia and in central Virginia
Friday, December 16, 2005
Kitchen Window Astronomy
Have you seen Mercury lately? I don't believe I'd ever seen it until very recently. On a clear morning a few days ago, I happened to look out my kitchen window (which faces southeast) and noticed a very bright "star" (actually Jupiter). I knew it was a planet but didn't know which one until I looked it up. But then I noticed another bright "star", lower and to the left of Jupiter, peeking through the bare tree branches in the dawn's early light; there were no other stars visible in that part of the sky. I knew it had to be something very bright to be seen under those conditions. I noticed it again this morning. So I went to my favorite online sky atlas, and guessed it must be Mercury. A little further Internet searching, and I learned that this month is one of the very best viewing opportunities we will have for a while. So, if you have nothing better to do at 6:40 a.m., and it's a clear morning, and your kitchen window faces southeast, look for Mercury.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Have you noticed that the sun is setting later than it did last week? Me neither, but by the end of the month the change should be more apparent. Actually, as measured in minutes, it happened only yesterday - the official sunset time yesterday was one minute later than it has been since December 4, (at least according to this site). I have tried and tried to wrap my brain around this idea - that the earliest sunset and latest sunrise are NOT on the winter solstice, but so far it hasn't stuck.
There are lots of web pages trying to explain it though. A very thorough presentation is here, but you have to be prepared to sit and read through it and do some mental exertion:
I found that page through this page, which has a few zillion links (some of which are obsolete):
Thursday, December 08, 2005
I just got around to posting pictures of Monday/Tuesday's snow, and now we're looking at another Winter Storm Warning. I really hope this is not a preview of the next 3 months. It seems there's some uncertainty about the forecast for the next storm - maybe we'll see more rain/freezing rain/sleet than snow. In any case, I bought my "snow bread" this afternoon (we don't use much milk around here) so we're all set.
Saturday, December 03, 2005
Yesterday morning I looked out the patio door to see what new and interesting birds might be around, and instead I saw this. I'm perplexed. The feeder hangs on a very sturdy iron hook on a fairly sturdy oak branch. My first thought was that those @#$% squirrels had managed to break the thing. On closer inspection I saw what had actually happened was that the hook had somehow fallen (been removed?) from the branch. Now, the squirrels are very clever and resourceful, but even if they cooperated (which they never do), I don't see how they could have lifted the hook enough to get it off the branch. So maybe it was another well-known clever and resourceful raider of bird feeders? Like a raccoon? I've never seen one here in the backyard, but that's probably because they're nocturnal and I'm not. Any other guesses?